Vaughn Ververs is the editor of CBS’s Public Eye blog. Before launching Public Eye in September, 2005, Ververs was editor of The Hotline, a daily political news outlet, where he also wrote a weekly column. Prior to that, he worked as an associate producer for Fox News Sunday and at Fox News Channel.
Bryan Keefer: In your mission statement, you say that Public Eye’s “fundamental mission is to bring transparency to the editorial operations of CBS News,” but also that “When stories about journalists and journalism are in the news, Public Eye will write and report about them.” You’ve been criticized recently for a lack of focus. There was a column in the Los Angeles Times that said, “It’s fine to want to play media critic, although that role doesn’t always mix well with the job description of viewers’ representative. Public Eye may ultimately need to decide which master it wants to serve.”
What exactly is it that Public Eye does?
Vaughn Ververs: Just what our mission statement says. We’re here to engage in a conversation with the audience of CBS News. The main part of that conversation is about what is on the air at CBS. We’ve delved into a lot of different issues. We’ve taken cameras into editorial meetings. We’ve answered specific complaints about a lot of stories that have appeared on broadcast, from 60 Minutes to 48 Hours to the Evening News; we’ve tried to give people a look behind the scenes at how the news is put together at CBS News. That’s our main focus.
The other part of our job is to talk about these things that are going on out in the world of journalism, because what affects one part of journalism, we believe, affects everybody in one way or another. And these are issues that everybody is struggling with and grappling with, and that’s part of the conversation we’re trying to have.
BK: Do you think you’ve had an impact within CBS?
VV: It’s hard to say. I don’t think you can point to anything that’s happened, that’s been put on the air, and say that Public Eye had anything, necessarily, to do with that. I do think that, if anything, what we’ve been able to do is impress upon people at CBS the importance of engaging in conversations with the audience and critics and so forth. I think that we’ve maybe raised the level of awareness there. But it’s pretty early. We’ve only been at this for eight months or so, and I think this is going to continue to grow.
BK: Has it been, would you say, well-received by CBS employees? Or are they hostile to you?
VV: Not hostile. One of the things that has surprised me about doing this job, when I first came into it, I expected a little bit more push-back and a little more reluctance to cooperate with us. And we just haven’t met a high level of that. There have been a couple occasions where we get a little push-back now and again, but for the most part, it’s pretty encouraging that people who are putting the news together are willing to talk to us and to explain how they’re doing it, why they’re doing it, and answer some of the criticisms. I think we’ve been pleasantly surprised by their willingness to do that.
BK: Do you guys get any air time? Do you have any plans for a “Public Eye Live”?
VV: No. We try to do video on the blog as much as possible, we probably will be expanding that in the future and getting more of our own stuff, whether it’s interviews with correspondents, or maybe a Webcast of some sort, those are things that we’re thinking about.
But as far as us having a presence on the TV side, that’s not really a part of our mission here. If that were to happen, I guess that would be great, but that’s not what we’re about.
BK: How is it writing for a TV network? Do you feel like your contributions are valued or devalued because of the format that they’re in?